News | March 19, 2015

Congress pushes to dismantle coal ash protections

Following two catastrophic coal ash spills in the South over the past six years – as well as daily leaks and seepage at the many coal ash sites in our region – there was eager anticipation for the EPA's announcement of new federal coal ash protections in December.

The announcement instead brought disappointment as EPA chose to leave any meaningful protective action and oversight to the states – even as states had continually failed to address the widespread threat of coal ash.

Shockingly, some in Congress now want to dismantle even the minimal protections afforded by the EPA. Congress is currently considering Rep. David McKinley's bill to strip the few critical safety requirements and protections included in the coal ash rule, which would result in continuing coal ash contamination with no repercussions or responsibility for clean-up.

Citizen lawsuits became one of the most important tools to force utilities to clean up their coal ash messes, but the proposed bill would eliminate public access to information from utilities on coal ash pit assessments, severely weakening these lawsuits. Perhaps unaware or ill-informed of these critical failings, Virginia's own director of the Department of Environmental Quality – one of the state's top environmental officials – testified in favor of this pro-polluter bill yesterday. He later clarified that his testimony was not the “official view” of the McAuliffe Administration.

The House is scheduled to vote in the coming weeks on the bill.